The message that Jewish refugees are now a 'core issue' on Israel's peace agenda is reinforced by Israel's new ambassador to the US, Michael Oren:
JERUSALEM, June 16 (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is prepared to resume peace talks with the Palestinians that would cover core issues like borders and refugees, his new envoy to Washington said on Tuesday.
But, in an interview with Reuters, ambassador Michael Oren cautioned that on the status of Jerusalem, which is also among "core" issues in the peace process, Netanyahu had a firm position that the city must be the undivided capital of Israel.
U.S. President Barack Obama wants Israel and the Palestinians to resume peace talks as soon as possible and has welcomed as positive Netanyahu's conditional endorsement this week of the goal of Palestinian statehood.
But it is unclear when negotiations over core issues will resume. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has ruled out resuming the negotiations until Netanyahu freezes building in Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.
Resuming negotiations on core issues, particularly over the future of Jerusalem, could splinter Netanyahu's coalition government, where right-wing and religious parties are strongly opposed to acceding to Palestinians' demand for at least a part of the city as the capital of a future Palestinian state.
"The core issue would be, for example, the borders between us and the Palestinians," Oren said when asked which core issues would be discussed in future talks.
He said Netanyahu's demands that a future Palestinian state be demilitarised were another core issue.
"The refugee issue, both the Palestinian refugee issue, as well as the Jewish refugee issue -- the Jews who were forced out of Arab lands -- those are core issues," he added. (My emphasis)
Israel has long insisted it does not accept a Palestinian demand that refugees who fled in the war of Israel's creation in 1948 should be able to return to homes that are now in Israel.
It has also at times related calls for compensation for those refugees to the losses of Jews who lost homes in countries like Iraq, Iran, Morocco and Egypt after Israel was established.
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